The Wife:

So here’s another thing Eliza Dushku can do: sing. Other than that, Echo’s personality in this episode is pretty much that of Faith’s, only a slightly happier, singing Faith. It seems that, no matter what, every single personality Topher creates for Echo, be it Eleanor or whoever she was last week or Jordin, is from Boston.

This week, she’s Jordin, a singer who is assigned to protect pop star Rayna from the crazed superfan who’s trying to kill her, but in an inauspicious way. Rayna likes Jordin’s audition, a song about freedom that I do not recognize because I live in a musical bubble, and instantly takes a liking to her. Topher programmed Jordin to make fast friends with Rayna, but also instinctively protect her from harm. Hence the Boston badass with a great voice.

Just to be sure everything goes down right, Rayna’s manager also hires Sierra, who gets thrown into the plan as the winner of Rayna’s number one fan contest. As Aussie Audra, Sierra is completely different than the first few times we’ve seen her, and she’s tossed into this plot merely as bait.

You see, Rayna has a pact with the crazed fan who’s been trying to kill her. Sick of the totally-not-metaphorical-cage she tries to break free from at the beginning of each of her shows, she wants to die. The life that Jordin’s always dreamed of is a trap to Rayna, something she can’t escape, unless she dies. And even then, at least she’ll die famous. She refers to her pop career as “manufactured, grown in a lab, just everyone’s fantasy.”

The most obvious metaphor in the world.

The most obvious metaphor in the world.

Her call for freedom is a frame for something we’re probably all thinking about Dollhouse itself. Once an Active signs the contract to be part of the Dollhouse, there is presumably no escape but death. If you don’t remember you signed your life away, how could you possibly get it back? You must be whatever whoever pays for you wants you to be, until you die. The only other option, of course, is to go rogue like Alpha did . . .

And like Reed Diamond seems to think Echo is starting to do. Once Echo-as-Jordin figures out that Rayna was planning to die on stage and foils that plot, her stalker kidnaps poor Sierra-as-Audra. Instinctively trying to protect a girl she has befriended, Echo appears to go off mission, kidnapping Rayna to trade the stalker for Audra’s safety. Part of her strategy for doing this is to dangle Rayna from the catwalk. Facing death head-on, Rayna declares that she wants to live and once Echo-as-Jordin knocks out the stalker and saves Sierra-as-Audra, she pulls Rayna up, allowing her to live.

Olivia Williams points out that Echo was always on mission. She saved Rayna from the person who wanted her to die, it just turned out that the person who wanted her to die was Rayna herself. Still, Reed Diamond thinks Echo is a liability and wants her deactivated, but Olivia Williams refuses.

There is a hint of remembrance as Echo and Sierra pass each other in the hallway, and Echo shakes her head “no” at Sierra, as if to say, “Don’t let them know that I know things.” Or, perhaps, “Don’t let them know that you know things.” I have to wonder here if new Active Sierra is starting to remember things after she’s been wiped of them too.

Over in B-plot land, something that I don’t entirely understand happened. Paul Ballard saw his Russian club guy again, demanding to know what he knew about the Dollhouse. Russian club guy tells him he’s barking up the wrong tree, that he doesn’t think it exists at all. He wishes it did, he tells Paul, because if it did, he’d go have the terrible burden of being him erased . . . and then he shows up in Topher’s mind-erasey chair!

I don’t know what that means! He’s either just joined up (likely) or has he been an Active all along (probably more likely.) But if it’s the latter, who is controlling the Russian guy puppet? What client would want to upset the delicate balance of the Dollhouse by potentially exposing it? Or is Topher deliberately baiting Paul Ballard into finding the Dollhouse? If so, why? To prove the genius of his creation exists? Or is it under the orders of his superiors, who may wish to silence Ballard’s curiosity by recruiting him?

The pop star plot worked well enough to pose theoretical questions about the nature of existence within the Dollhouse; prove that, even with an imprinted personality, the Actives have a certain amount of free will; let Eliza Dushku try something new while still being largely within her element; and toss in some doozies of questions in the Ballard plot.

Was this episode as great as “Target?” No. But it was better than “Ghost.” I know they can’t all be “Target” caliber, but Dushku promises that the show gets wicked good around episode six, so I hope she keeps her promise.

The Husband:

Plain and simple, I did not like this plot. It could have been any C-level show, and aside from the actual Dollhouse intrigue, it seemed like something out of CSI: Crap City or one of the really bizarre episodes of Smallville. There are reports now from Joss and Eliza that the show doesn’t get great until episode six, so that’s good news, but jeez, was this ever a let-down. You have these robot-like empty shells of human beings that can do anything on this show, and you give us a pop-star-in-trouble storyline? Yawn.

I want this show to last, and I want it to be really great. While the latter may start to happen around episode six, I don’t know if people will stick around that long so the former wish of mine can come true. But right now, it’s not inspiring fervent loyalty.